Quantcast
Channel: Poetry | The Guardian
Mark channel Not-Safe-For-Work? cancel confirm NSFW Votes: (0 votes)
Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel.
0

No rhyme or reason for age limit on Oxford poetry professorship | Letters

0
0
Oxford university’s search for a new poetry professor smacks of youthism, says Michael Horovitz, while Christine Elliott reflects on the hunt for the next poet laureate

Having recently put myself forward as a potential candidate for the forthcoming Oxford poetry professorship election, I am gobsmacked to discover that this venerable university has pulled a drawbridge up against anyone older than 69 qualifying for such a long-memoried position. Applying conventional retirement rules to a four- to five-year job feels like a retrograde step on the part of Oxford. Such discrimination is particularly inimical to the roles poetry and poets play in society.

Poets tend to resist institutionalisation and rarely if ever retire. Good poetry itself is, as Ezra Pound declared, “news that stays news”. To rule out the potential contributions of numerous older poets who may want to apply in years to come, at a point in life when they will be likely to have achieved a considerable knowledge of poetic arts and crafts, seems not just unfair, but wilfully to defy administrative logic.

Continue reading...

Toffee by Sarah Crossan review – a profoundly moving YA novel in verse

0
0
Trauma, grief and belonging are all addressed in this poignant verse novel from the Irish children’s laureate

Young adult verse novels are currently in the ascendant, with three American poets appearing on the Carnegie shortlist: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, and Rebound by Kwame Alexander. On this side of the Atlantic, the driving force behind the verse novel’s resurgence is the Irish children’s laureate Sarah Crossan, whose 2011 book The Weight of Water won acclaim both from adult reviewers and from a wide-ranging young readership.

Crossan went on to produce more highly successful verse novels:One, a story of conjoined twins, won the Carnegie in 2016, and Moonrise, an account of a boy’s farewell to a brother on death row, was shortlisted for the 2017 Costa children’s prize. Toffee, her latest story told in verse, returns to several poignant and recurrent themes: belonging, identity, grief and trauma, and shaping one’s place in the world.

Related: Joe Dunthorne and Sarah Crossan on poetry and fiction – books podcast

Continue reading...

Simon Armitage named UK's poet laureate

0
0

West Yorkshire writer speaks of parents’ pride and his desire to ‘give something back’ as he succeeds Carol Ann Duffy

The West Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage, a former probation officer who describes his writing as “no-brow”, has been appointed as the UK’s 21st poet laureate.

Armitage, who received a phone call from Theresa May offering him the position on Thursday, said his parents cried when he told them the news – he had made them particularly nervous in 1994, when he gave up his day job to become a full-time poet.

Related: Poet laureate: the highest office in poetry | Simon Armitage

Related: Simon Armitage: making poetry pay | Aida Edemariam

Continue reading...

Book clinic: what can I read to stay sharp on maternity leave?

0
0
Author Viv Groskop helps select the best political, poetical and fictional reads to keep you in touch with the world

Q: What can I read to stop my brain turning to mush on maternity leave?
Teacher, 39

A: Journalist and comedian Viv Groskop, author of How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking (Bantam, £12.99), writes:
First, an important corrective. I don’t want to berate you, dearest new parent and teacher, but I must challenge you on the premise of your question. Who told you your brain turns to mush on maternity leave? Why is it necessary to buy that myth? In my experience, becoming a parent sharpens your instincts, gives you laser-like focus and makes you use whatever time you can find for reading – and for yourself – far more efficiently than you ever dreamed possible.

Continue reading...

Who needs poetry? We all do – and we need it now | Kenan Malik

Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy! review – poetry in motion

0
0
(Jagjaguwar)

She might be an up-and-coming soul singer, but US poet and activist Jamila Woods is a team player. Her second album is also a showcase for other people’s work. Each song on this engaged but accessible record memorialises a figure from the African diaspora – often lesser-known poets, or figures like Miles and Basquiat.

Woods’s first album, 2016’s Heavn, benefited from co-signs from Chance the Rapper and the Roots. This time she is purposefully showcasing newer talent – such as Chicago rapper Saba, whose furious lines contrast with Woods’s clear, calm manner on Basquiat, which is about anger as much as it is about the artist’s work. Woods’s fellow poet-activists get a welcome hearing: Giovanni is a banger that celebrates the Black Arts Movement wordsmith, Nikki Giovanni, and suggests Woods has even bigger melodies up her sleeve than those on Heavn.

Continue reading...

Poem of the week: Catch of the Day by Finuala Dowling

0
0

Witty and reader-friendly, this week’s choice reveals more complexity the closer you look

Catch of the Day

My therapist shakes her head.
It’s much more complex than that, she says.

Continue reading...

Girlhood by Julia Copus review – phenomenal mind games

0
0
The British poet’s technical dexterity and way of seeing the past afresh reap rich dividends

Julia Copus’s poems are acts of resistance. The material tests its own boundaries to become something new. She is not limited to – or by – personal experience. One of the many pleasures of this phenomenal collection, her first for seven years, is that you cannot predict the varied ways in which these poems will fly. There are autobiographical pieces, poems of history and imagination and, in The Great Unburned, there are witches overhead: “Slow at first, over fields and fences, / over the god-fearing steeples we’ll climb, our broomsticks / tight in the grip of our shameless, fantastical thighs.” It is a poem of formidable skill (that “fantastical” perversely and satisfyingly makes the witches real) and written in the hinged form Copus invented (she dubbed it the “specular”). The second half of the poem mirrors the first, and yet the doubling back is not straightforward – the punctuation changes and you lose some italics. You never enter the same poem/ river/ flight path twice.

Copus’s autobiographical poems are as richly detailed as novels, with roaring trains (and, sometimes, people)

Continue reading...

'You can't sustain a career on shocking people': is Bret Easton Ellis genuine? – books podcast

0
0

On this week’s show, the American Psycho author meets Alex Needham, the Guardian’s arts editor, to discuss the controversy about White, a collection of essays and his first book in 10 years. Ellis explains why he is not interested in attention, his theory of “post-empire” culture in the US and why he is “deeply sympathetic” to millennials.

Plus, Claire, Sian and Richard discuss the appointment of Simon Armitage as the UK’s new poet laureate.

Continue reading...

Nature writing is booming – but must a walk through the woods always be meaningful? | Zoe Gilbert

0
0

When so many of us struggle to find time and money to head outdoors, nature writing offers us vicarious enchantment – regardless of reality

Nature, as both a place and an idea, has become fraught with issues of privilege. Not everyone can access it, nor can they always afford to romanticise it. As biodiversity plummets, our attention becomes bittersweet, leaving nature lovers trapped in an increasingly tragic love story. Yet for any difficulty we may have in facing up to our collective destruction, writing about nature is booming. As readers, we relish these secondhand wanderings, recounted in gorgeous prose. We witness the author’s wonder, and aspire to similar experiences: the natural world as cure, as balm, as wise mentor; wilderness as a fount of authenticity in which we might find our wilder, realer selves.

My own relationship with nature writing is complicated. I am disappointed by my hesitancy when it comes to these books. After all, that most heady brew, where sublime language renders nature’s glories anew is one I personally aspire to concoct as a writer. And I’m often enchanted by writing that achieves it, such as Dorothy Hartley’s 1939 book Made in England, a favourite of mine. Hartley’s descriptions of landscapes and details as she strides out to document dwindling crafts range from the matter-of-fact to the downright fanciful. But all speak of a sharp eye and a guileless joy that make me wish I could tramp alongside her, spotting the small marvels she points out along the way. We might stop and notice the “tiny green tentative fingers” of growing things, or “the crackling cat-ice in the cart ruts” ourselves, but she is not going to linger over them on our behalf – she has work to do. Whether she is enchanted by her surroundings or not, we must infer; she will not tell. Whether you are enchanted is up to you.

Enchantment is not everywhere all the time; it relies on mood and receptivity quite as much as the appearance of a fox or a charismatic oak

Related: Folk by Zoe Gilbert review – a dreamlike tapestry of island fables

Continue reading...

Top 10 books about Sudan

0
0

Despite 30 years of repression that have hit writers unusually hard, Sudanese literature remains vigorous. Here is some of the best available in English

I was lucky to grow up in Khartoum in a house filled with books, at a time when Sudan’s public libraries flourished. One of the most startling discoveries I made as a child of about 13 was finding a couple of Tayeb Salih’s books on a shelf at home. Until that moment, I thought literature was something that took place elsewhere – in Dickens’s England or the Latin America of Borges, say. But here were stories that described the world right outside our front door. It was a moment of revelation and stirred the idea that it was possible to write.

Related: A Line in the River by Jamal Mahjoub review – Khartoum, city of memory

Related: Qur'an and AK-47: the 30-year rule of Sudan's Omar al-Bashir

Related: Top 10 bilingual books

Continue reading...

'Simon Armitage knows where the heffalump traps are': Andrew Motion on how to be poet laureate

0
0

The former laureate praises the appointment of Armitage, who will make the most of a role that has become less about ‘royal stuff’ and more about the poetry of everyday life

The news that Simon Armitage is the new poet laureate is both good for him and good for poetry. I’ve known Simon almost since he began to publish poems. He is a particularly brilliant choice for the post in that he has always had the remarkable capacity to take on whatever he encounters in the world, and then to fashion it into very good poetry. Most poets, no matter how good they are, have special areas of subject interest. By contrast Simon has an octopus-armed ability to grapple with almost anything and everything that comes his way and to see what is poetic about it. This facility has something to do with his technical skills, which are formidable. But it is as much to do with the way that he finds everything in the world interesting. More specifically in a poetical sense, the way he finds everything in the world worth wondering about. His poems are full of ideas and attitudes, but the primary impulse of his work is to express wonder about the world in its multiple forms.

The position entails a lot of getting up early to go on the Today programme – Simon will be extremely good at all that

Continue reading...

Yemeni poetry thrives despite trauma of civil war

0
0

Poets explore how the artform can unite people on different sides of conflict

A story is often told to illustrate how central poetry is to Yemeni culture: that of the visit of a famous lute player from Baghdad.

He was invited to play in Sana’a, where he performed enchanting and technically brilliant music for an hour. But when he stopped, the audience waited for the musician to start talking. Without any poetry, they thought, the entertainment could not possibly be over yet.

I have always told you:
You must be brave to say you are scared,
And scared enough to look brave.

The sun rose and pushed them one by one
Onto the ageing bus
Fresh bread, a little butter
And some cheese
That’s all it took -
Oh and some tea
A whole lot of singing
And laughter; that’s a perfect day
At the beach

Continue reading...

Poem of the week: Twickenham Garden by John Donne

0
0

Intriguingly attuned to modern science, this acid-spotted Arcadia comes complete with blight, bugs and bad weather

Twickenham Garden
Blasted with sighs, and surrounded with tears,
Hither I come to seek the spring,
And at mine eyes, and at mine ears,
Receive such balms as else cure every thing.
But O! self-traitor, I do bring
The spider Love, which transubstantiates all,
And can convert manna to gall;
And that this place may thoroughly be thought
True paradise, I have the serpent brought.

’Twere wholesomer for me that winter did
Benight the glory of this place,
And that a grave frost did forbid
These trees to laugh and mock me to my face ;
But that I may not this disgrace
Endure, nor yet leave loving, Love, let me
Some senseless piece of this place be;
Make me a mandrake, so I may grow here,
Or a stone fountain weeping out my year.

Hither with crystal phials, lovers, come,
And take my tears, which are love’s wine,
And try your mistress’ tears at home,
For all are false, that taste not just like mine.
Alas! hearts do not in eyes shine,
Nor can you more judge women’s thoughts by tears,
Than by her shadow what she wears.
O perverse sex, where none is true but she,
Who’s therefore true, because her truth kills me.

Continue reading...

Raymond Antrobus becomes first poet to win Rathbones Folio prize

0
0

The Perseverance, using the writer’s experience of deafness to explore human communication, was praised by judges as ‘exceptionally brave and kind’

Raymond Antrobus has become the first poet to win the £30,000 Rathbones Folio prize, taking the award for his “exceptionally brave and kind” exploration of the deaf experience, The Perseverance.

The Jamaican-British spoken-word poet, who was diagnosed as deaf at the age of six, was up against seven other books. The prize is intended to reward “the best work of literature of the year, regardless of form”, and this year’s shortlist included Diana Evans’s Women’s prize-shortlisted novel Ordinary People, and Ashleigh Young’s collection of essays Can You Tolerate This?. But in the end, judges said the Antrobus’s poems, which move from his childhood diagnosis to his late father’s alcoholism, edged ahead of close contender Mary Anne Sate, Imbecile, a verse narrative by Alice Jolly.

Related: Generation next: the rise – and rise – of the new poets

Continue reading...

Letter: Les Murray obituary

0
0

When I heard Les Murray give a poetry reading in Carlisle in 1992, I knew little of his work, or that this large, friendly man had already published several collections of groundbreaking verse. Inventive and comfortable with language, he loved reading to the public and his verse carried people with him.

We were both fathers of sons with autism: the communication difficulties are explored outstandingly well in It Allows a Portrait in Line Scan at Fifteen from his collection Subhuman Redneck Poems.

Continue reading...

Hillsborough survivors' words shortlisted for Forward poetry prize

0
0

Truth Street by David Cain, which combines eyewitness accounts of the 1989 disaster, is nominated for best debut in year when ‘poetry has come down from its high shelf’

A debut poetry collection made entirely from formal evidence given during the second inquest into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster has been shortlisted for one of the UK’s most prestigious poetry awards.

David Cain, a football fan since childhood who is nominated in the Forward prizes’ best first collection category, began reading the daily reports of the two-year inquest into the disaster, in which 96 people died and hundreds were injured. He found himself “repeatedly struck by the poetry of the language used by the eyewitnesses to try and describe such horrific events”.

Best collection

Continue reading...

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes review – women of the Trojan war

0
0
The latest novel to retell Greek epic from the women’s point of view is a panoramic portrait of the true cost of conflict

Homer’s Iliad, as Natalie Haynes notes in the afterword to A Thousand Ships, is rightly regarded as “one of the great foundational texts on war and warriors, men and masculinity”. Recently we’ve seen a wave of novels that offer a new slant on its male-centred vision. Pat Barker gave Briseis, a minor character in Homer’s epic, a powerful narrative voice of her own in The Silence of the Girls. From the Odyssey Madeline Miller’s Circespotlights the sorceress who detains Odysseus on his way back from Troy; both are shortlisted for the Women’s prize. Now Haynes, who has a background in classics, provides a bold choral retelling of the Iliad that’s panoramic and playful yet makes a serious comment on war and its true cost.

Haynes previously reimagined the Oedipus story in her 2017 novel The Children of Jocasta. Here she sets out to demonstrate that the Trojan war “is a woman’s war, just as much as it is the men’s”, and to draw attention to “the pain of the women who have always been relegated to the edges of the story, victims of men, survivors of men, slaves of men”. As she reminds us drily, “they have waited long enough for their turn”. But she is also interested in the business of how narratives are assembled. Her main narrator is Calliope, muse of epic poetry. She answers Homer’s famous invocation – “Sing, Muse, he says, and the edge in his voice makes it clear that this is not a request” – by leading him on a zigzagging journey. What we get isn’t a single, linear story but a series of stories, as the voices that have been muffled up till now – “the forgotten, the ignored” – begin to speak.

Continue reading...

Common People review – a valuable anthology of working-class writers

0
0
Edited by Kit de Waal, these essays, memoirs, stories and poems from established and new writers come straight from the heart

This important collection brings together 34 working-class writers “in celebration, not apology”. There are essays, memoirs, stories and poetry, and most come from the heart. Louise Doughty tells of her aspirational, hard-working father, who left school at 13 and thought ITV and blue jeans were common. Stuart Maconie returns to his childhood home and recalls night-time football, slow-cooked steak and housing projects that almost lived up to their grandly utopian aims.

Previously unpublished writers also shine. Astra Bloom’s tale of a girl’s bittersweet moment of glory after she wins a writing competition is touching and beautifully told. Loretta Ramkissoon anchors her reminiscence around a tower block’s shared lifts, whose cold interiors nurture community spirit, decades of small talk building into something special as the floors rush by.

Continue reading...

Oxford poetry professor contest kicks off amid growing controversy

0
0

Three candidates – Alice Oswald, Andrew McMillan and Todd Swift – issue campaign statements, as efforts to exclude Swift gather steam

Just weeks after Simon Armitage was named the UK’s next poet laureate, the contest for the country’s second most important role in poetry has begun. Voting has opened for Oxford University’s next professor of poetry, with two of the country’s best known practitioners, Alice Oswald and Andrew McMillan, both in the running.

Candidates for the four-year professorship, which involves giving a public lecture every term and is currently held by Armitage, must be nominated by at least 50 Oxford graduates. Oswald, the winner of the TS Eliot, Costa and Griffin prizes, was backed by the most supporters, with 167 throwing their weight behind her, including former poet laureate Andrew Motion, novelist Mark Haddon and biographer and academic Hermione Lee.

Continue reading...